Day 29 & 30: Rochester, MN to Minneapolis, MN

The team spent the rest day yesterday… actually resting? We truly all were able to relax and recharge on the rainy day off. Some teammates met up with friends in the area, others went to coffee shops, others simply napped and took another warm shower. It was a really great day and a much needed rest before our longest ride yet that occured today!!!!!!!

Our longest ever ride was dedicated to Doriette Gauci. Doriette was the grandmother of Viraat’s friend Stefan and she unfortunately lost her battle with colon cancer. We kept Doriette in our thoughts all throughout the day.

If you are familiar with Minnesota you might be thinking, isn’t Rochester a little bit far away from Minneapolis, even by car? The answer is yes. Are you wondering, did the team absolutely crush all 119 miles of the journey, even on bikes? The answer is a HUGE yes! We may have had a few flats today, but every single person was able to complete the ride, and in good time. We set out for Minneapolis at 6 this morning and rolled up to the stayover at 6 this evening. A big deal when we have long days are taking fast rest stops. The team gets a rest stop every 20 miles or so – today we aimed for 23-25 miles between each rest stop, because those few miles really add up! Teams did a great job keeping stops under 15 minutes today. Everyone also did an amazing job supporting one another and going into the ride with a positive mindset, and finishing just as strong.

We have another (extremely necessary after today) rest stop tomorrow, and are so blessed to be staying in Zane’s Aunt Debbie’s beautiful home. She has provided us with meals on our rest day as well as our own mattresses to sleep on (complete with pillows and blankets!!!) (very important because a lot of our sleeping bags kind of smell like feet at this point in the ride…). We are so thankful and can’t wait to take a rest on the lake tomorrow.

Today Cari is getting a shout-out! Cari was one of the riders today who unfortunately got a flat tire. When she went to change the tire, she could not quite get her wheel off. Several teammates tried and also could not budge the wheel! However, Cari kept trying and had other riders try, and finally Marc was able to help her. Instead of giving up and getting in the van on our longest and most challenging day, she sought out a solution and got back on the bike and did that century!!!!

Someone can fact check me on this, but from what I understand, today was the longest ride in Illini 4000 history. There are professional riders who do not ever do 120 miles in one day like this. To say that I am proud of this team is an understatement! The day was filled with so many smiles, stories, and genuine goodness despite how challenging the day was.

Day 28: La Crosse, WI to Rochester, MN

Today’s ride was dedicated to the mother of Hannah Rose, one of Cari’s good friends. Hannah Rose’s mother struggles with cancer, and we biked with her in mind this morning as we set out from Wiconsin to Minnesota.

Today was originally set to be an 85 mile day – but because we had a tour scheduled for 4pm at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, we shortened the day to 44 miles and then shuttled the rest of the way! It worked out pretty well because there were some really strong headwinds on the route that would have made arriving to Mayo by 4 impossible. It was really fun packing all of the bikes up into the van – like a really fun puzzle! The Mayo Clinic was a sight to see. It is so large and so successful, and it is great that people have access to such a wonderful place.

For today and tomorrow (because tomorrow is a rest day!) we are at the Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester. They have such a beautiful facility with showers accessible to us at all times!!!! We are very excited to relax here this evening and tomorrow.

Today, Steven is getting a big shout-out! Steven helped out a ton with figuring out the logistics of this day, and packed the van full of bikes in an efficient and safe way. He also helped his teammates through the very strong headwinds.

Day 27: Reedsburg, WI to La Crosse, WI

Today’s ride was dedicated to Maria’s great-aunt Annie. Annie is a breast cancer survivor, she survived her diagnosis many years ago. She is currently facing some health complications unrelated to her cancer, but we biked today thinking of the strength it took for her to overcome her cancer diagnosis as well as her strength right now.

We had an amazing day today! The weather in Wisconsin was beautiful all day, sunny and 70 with a slight breeze. We had a long day in front of us with 85 miles, and it took us a full 12 hours to get to the stayover, but that was because we were exploring and making memories. We had lunch at a really cool park next to Bailey’s Diner – where some of the team got some delicious tacos! We also were able to eat some famous Wisconsin squeaky cheese curds and famous ice cream. It is a good thing that we burn so many calories throughout the day!

The second half of the ride was through a lot of really fun tunnels – one of them was a mile long and we couldn’t even see from one end to the other. We walked our bikes through that one with our lights on. The trail used to be a route for train tracks and trains, but now is a famous biking trail. We also had an adventure at our last stop where a cute dog emerged from the trail and we went on a mission to locate its owner! Luckily their owner was looking for them and we reunited the duo before heading to the stayover.

Our stayover tonight is the First Presbeteryian Church in La Crosse. We were greeted this evening by the smell of a grill and got to eat some delicious hot dogs and cheeseburgers tonight for dinner, complete with watermelon and potato salad. It really feels like summer here surrounded by good friends and good food :) we also got showers at the neighboring YMCA – some even took advantage of the steam rooms and other awesome amenities. Then, the church let us do loads of laundry! There is no better feeling than going to sleep with a full stomach, clean clothes, and clean hair!

Today Anisha is getting a big shout-out! Across the team, everyone knows that riding with Anisha is riding with someone positive. Today I personally overheard several people say that she is a great teammate to ride with because no matter what, she is just excited to be riding and taking it in. No matter if she is in the first or last group, she is always smiling and making the team laugh.

Day 26: Madison, WI to Reedsburg, WI

Today’s ride was dedicated to Bridgette. Bridgette is the god daughter of a man we met along our route a couple of days ago. He himself was a biker, and noticed our support van and all of the bikes, and came over to ask about what we are doing. He talked to us for a long time and we truly enjoyed his company. We hope with everything we have that his god daughter can overcome her stage 3 cancer diagnosis.

Today was not a dry day. The first 20 miles of the 61 mile ride were through drizzling rain. The next 20 miles were relatively dry, but we decided to take our lunch break at Devil’s Lake where we got in the lake and kayaked! It was a little chilly but we were thankful that the rain stopped long enough for us to enjoy the state park and some quality time together. The last 20 miles of the ride were also through some rain, but spirits were high as we rolled into the stayover!

We are thankful for St. Johns Lutheran Church in Reedsburg Wisconsin for hosting us tonight and feeding us! Tonight we got to eat barbecued hamburger with lots of different salads and desserts. We also got to take showers at the nearby municipal church. We are extra comfortable, clean, and finally dry tonight!

Today Maria is getting a major shout-out! In Maria’s group today, all 4 of her teammates got flat tires (some more than once), and she was the only one to not get a flat tire. It might be some luck that her tires were okay, but it was her awesome attitude that accounted for her supporting her teammates down to the last mile. One of the flats occurred only 1.8 miles from the stayover, but she was there to help however she could even though it was not her bike that needed the help. Maria is killing it out there on the roads and it is always a good day when you get to spend time with her!

Day 25: Lake Geneva, WI to Madison, WI

Today’s ride was donated to my aunt Marla. She has been a huge inspiration for me as an incredibly strong woman who has already beat breast cancer, skin cancer, and kidney cancer. She has recently once again been diagnosed with cancer but is staying strong and battling once again. I am inspired by her and her resilience and was honored to dedicate today’s ride to her as we rode north.

Today we also dedicated the ride to Tommy Matassa. Tommy has been enduring bladder cancer, and we recently ran into his significant other, who is a University of Illinois alumni. We biked today for both Marla and Tommy.

Today was a beautiful ride through the countryside of Wisconsin! We were thankful to be on some more rural roads compared to yesterday’s more stressful route. Toward the end of the day we saw some lightning and followed the protocol to ensure that nobody was biking in the storm. Luckily for us, the storm blew right over and we were able to make it to our stay over in a reasonable amount of time.

Our stayover tonight is the Calvary Lutheran Chapel in campus town Madison! It is a beautiful facility right above the university bookstore. They provided us with an amazing lasagna dinner complete with garlic bread and fresh salad. We also had the chance to explore the UW campus and downtown area this evening. We would never change loyalty from the University of Illinois, but we can’t help but admit that this lakeside campus is stunning. We even got to catch up with some I4K alumni and eat some more delicious food on the terrace.

Overall, this was a wonderful day!

Today Viraat is getting a shout-out! He had a wheel malfunction in the very beginning of the day but he did not let that bring him down. Our mechanic Marc fixed it up and Viraat rode the rest of the day safely and with confidence.

Day 24: Chicago, IL to Lake Geneva, WI

Today’s ride was dedicated to Padma. Padma was Anisha’s grandmother, who lost her battle with cancer two years ago. We were honored to be able to dedicate the ride to her with Anisha and her parents alongside us in the team circle this morning.

The team left our friends and family at Buckingham fountain as we set out for the 71 mile journey to Lake Geneva! The route today was initially going to be 98 miles long on a beautiful lakeside bike path, however due to the immense amounts of rain that the midwest has been receiving, we had to reroute our journey today. Instead, we biked the busy Chicago streets and some major roads in the suburbs. We received some remarks from drivers today that were less than friendly, but we think maybe they just had a case of the Mondays.

It was nothing that a nice meal and place to rest couldn’t fix, which is exactly what we received this evening at the Lake Geneva Camps and Conferences center. We got a nice dinner of chicken, Mac n cheese, green beans, and a salad bar. We also have real beds to sleep in (bunk beds – just like a real summer camp!) and showers! It’s a nice transition from home to get to stay at a place with nice, homey amenities.

Rider shout-out: HUGE shout-out to Nathan, our route master, for using his rest day yesterday to safely reroute us out of Chicago and to this stayover. He had to change the entire route, which is no small task. Bikes are only allowed on certain roads depending on what state law declares, and since safety is our priority, Nathan even scouts the roads we are allowed on and checks for traffic patterns and road conditions. We are lucky to have him on our team and owe our safe and timely arrival to him today!